Diggin’ Deep on UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje – ESPN2 prelims preview

For this Saturday’s October 24th UFC 254 PPV event, it’s not entirely clear what the UFC is doing with the televised prelims. In a…

By: Dayne Fox | 3 years ago
Diggin’ Deep on UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje – ESPN2 prelims preview
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

For this Saturday’s October 24th UFC 254 PPV event, it’s not entirely clear what the UFC is doing with the televised prelims. In a two hour block, there are typically four scheduled contests, and yet there are only three the UFC is listing to be on this portion of the card. Perhaps there is still the longshot possibility they are setting up a contest for Sergey Morozov, who was left without an opponent when Umar Nurmagomedov pulled out about a week before the event due to illness. It isn’t as crazy as it would have seemed a year ago given the crazy amount of short notice contests the UFC has thrown together in the age of the pandemic. Nonetheless, as of the time this went to print, there were still just three contests scheduled for television. None of the listed contests scream must-see-TV, but all of them have more potential than the average contest of ending violently. Make what you will of that….

  • The rise and (potential) fall of Tai Tuivasa has come with extreme quickness. Going from headlining a UFC card against a former champion by his fourth UFC contest, the big Aussie may be on the verge of being let go should he drop his fourth consecutive contest in his seventh Octagon appearance. With athleticism that belies his doughy frame, the hard-hitting protégé of Mark Hunt isn’t lacking for physical skills. It’s a matter of discipline. While Hunt was never much of a grappler, he could stop takedowns and had solid submission defense. Tuivasa still needs a lot of work on that, though he has been training with AKA to shore up some of his holes. Regardless, it’s anticipated he’ll be in a lot of trouble should the fight hit the mat as Stefan Struve has proven to be one of the better submission specialists in the annals of UFC heavyweight history. The 7-footer knows how to use his long limbs exceptionally well, nabbing armbars, triangle chokes, arm triangles… damn near every type of submission, a rarity at heavyweight. Unfortunately for Struve, his tall frame has made it difficult to find the proper leverage for takedowns. Even worse, he’s never learned to properly use his length defensively, leaving him prone to heavy shots from his opposition. While Struve’s toughness can’t be questioned, his durability can be. Picking either combatant is an uncomfortable proposition, but I trust Struve even less than Tuivasa. Tuivasa via KO of RD2
  • The UFC must have high hopes for Shavkat Rakhmonov as they insist on pitting him against an established UFC talent who tends to win more than they lose. First, it was Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. When the Brazilian pulled out with injury, it was a fellow countryman in Alex Oliveira who replaced him. Of course, Oliveira has a reputation for stepping in on short notice, so this shouldn’t be a surprise. A fantastic athlete with a sudden burst and shocking power, Oliveira has been taking a more discipline approach to his striking. He’s always been patient, but he’s been too patient at times without much supplemental volume. His contest with Peter Sobotta showed a better managing of distance and counter punching, having few issues with the supplemental volume that had previously been problematic. That could be troublesome for Rakhmonov as his own striking is far from polished. The young Kazakhstani does his best work on the mat, often relying on a quick shot to yank the opposition to the mat. Rakhmonov prefers pounding them out from there, but his submissions can’t be slept on either. However, Rakhmonov has also relied heavily on being the bigger and better athlete. He won’t be able to claim that against Oliveira and Oliveira has been difficult to hold down by all but the best wrestlers and grapplers. That’s not good for the newcomer. Oliveira via TKO of RD2
  • For many, it’s a surprise Sam Alvey still has a roster spot. After all, he’s dropped four consecutive contests and has a terrible knack for turning in some of the most consistently boring fights if he’s unable to land his powerful left hand clean. Of course, if he does land it, it is frequently lights out and his most recent performance was his most well-rounded performance in years, showing some aggression as opposed to solely looking for the counter. If he can pick up where he left off against Ryan Spann, Alvery could very well pull off the upset. Of course, it’s not likely he can throw more volume than Da Un Jung when that – along with supreme cardio – is the biggest strength of Jung’s game. The problem for Jung is he hasn’t shown much of an ability to prevent his opponent from landing a clean shot on his own chin. Jung’s chin has held up remarkably well thus far and Alvey only has one KO over the last four years despite that being the basis of his game. After the years of hard fought battles, it appears Alvey is losing a step. I’ll go with Jung to outlast the longtime veteran. Jung via decision
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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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